Living Room Built-ins on a Budget



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Our tiny city condo has been a work in progress since we moved in.  We’ve been updating it at a faster rate lately (although not necessarily blogging about it) since we just added a new member to our little family.  When I was 39 weeks pregnant and in a SERIOUS nesting craze, I demanded that we go to Ikea immediately because I NEEDED built-ins in our living room.  Specifically, I NEEDED them for this odd empty space near our sofa that is never really used.  I pictured it one day being our daughter’s play area, and she clearly needed storage for toys… and she needed me to get the area set up and ready IMMEDIATELY.


My husband was smart enough to know to just go with the flow at this point, and he obliged.  I had a few ideas in my head after finding some fabulous inspiration online.  Years ago, I had seen this Ikea hack on madebygirl to make this fabulous credenza.


I loved everything about it, except the price (and that the Akurum cabinet components are no longer available at Ikea).  I decided to research a few options before going to Ikea, specifically the new Sektion cabinets ($$$$), the Bestå series ($$$), the Eket cabinet ($$), and the best deal of all, the Fullen cabinet ($).  My frugal nature won, and I decided to use the Fullen cabinets since they cost only $9.99 per unit.  They are generally used as sink cabinets, which means they are also easy to anchor to the wall (a necessity for child safety).  The other options would have cost us anywhere from $200-$1200 (!!!) to create a similar look.


My original plan was to purchase either Birch Plywood or 2 pieces of common board (running side by side) for a budget-friendly countertop.  I LOVE the look of this plywood tabletop from  I also love the price and availability of plywood.  Remember, I was 39 weeks pregnant and NEEDED this project done immediately. 🙂


There was one drawback for the Fullen cabinets: they didn’t come in the right length we needed for the wall.  Our wall is 91″ long, and I was hoping to capitalize on the full length.  The Fullen cabinet is 23 5/8″ wide, so 3 of them would only be about 71″ long, while 4 cabinets would be too long at 94.5″ long.  I decided to just deal with the smaller size and purchased 3 of them.  These cabinets are SO easy to put together!  My 39 week pregnant self was able to do a lot of the building.

Ready for the best part?  The cream on top?  The cherry with cream on top?  Before we leave Ikea, I always stop by the “as-is” room to see if I can score any good deals.  My husband and I were looking through their cabinet scraps when I pulled out a long, shiny, white “board.”  And GUESS WHAT THE DIMENSIONS WERE…. 15″ (the width we needed for our cabinets) by 90″ (the length we needed for our wall).  It was fate.  It was also marked down to only $4.90.  SOLD.  When I got home I googled the “board” to discover that it is actually a cover panel for kitchen cabinets, and it’s normally $74.

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Remember how I mentioned that my wall was 91″, the 3 cabinets would only total to 71″, and the board was 90″?  Obviously, the dimensions were a tad off.  We considered cutting the board down to size, but we were unsure how it would look.  I decided to create a 19″ space between two of the cabinets as a work area.  It’s just the right size for a small chair.


Once it was all put together, I decided that I didn’t love the grey, plastic legs or the cheap, plastic knobs that came with it.  I purchased these legs and these knobs to make it feel a bit more expensive.  The legs are actually meant for chairs and sofas, so I had to purchase bolts to keep them in place.


I absolutely love how it has turned out.  It has given us so much more storage.  I wasn’t sure if we’d actually use a “work space,” but my husband and I both prefer sitting at this little desk to concentrate for work.  At this time, we’ve decided not to attach the top to the cabinets.  Eventually, we’ll attach it with construction adhesive, but since our little one is so tiny we didn’t feel the need.


Now, we’re considering what to do with the space above the “built-ins.”  We could add some art to the right of our Washington D.C. map print for balance, or we could build a wall of shelving above them.  We definitely need to do something with our plain, hollow-core doors, although that’s really just an aside.  I can’t help but look around and come up with new projects.  It’s my husband’s favorite thing about me. 🙂IMG_3382IMG_3384

I’m one of those weird people that take great pleasure in organizing my home.  If you also love organization, this next part is for you.  Specifically, look at the bottom shelf.

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You guys, Ikea makes a great organizing box (Kuggis) that fits PERFECTLY into this cabinet.  It holds SO MUCH.  I bought both the box and the organizing insert.  I actually emptied my ENTIRE buffet cabinet into that box (granted, my buffet cabinet was mainly holding office supplies).  Here’s another picture of the Kuggis box because organization is everything.


“Built-in” Budget

  • 3  Fullen Cabinets =$30
  • “As-is” Förbättra cover panel= $5
  • 3 Packages Landskroma Chair Legs= $30
  • Gold Knobs= $13
  • TOTAL: $78

Overall, these “built-ins” could have been accomplished for a grand total of $35 (had I not wanted to upgrade the legs and knobs).  Adding your own wood top to it might increase the price by $16, if you choose one of my bargain options from above.  I’m really happy with the end result for our home and needs.  It’s given us storage AND a work space that we didn’t even realize we wanted!IMG_3385



How to Store Books in a Stylish Way

I’ve learned a lot of things as a new mom.  1. I’ve learned to always carry a change of clothes for the baby everywhere I go.  2. I’ve learned how to nurse while wearing the baby in a sling and walking through the city.  3. I’ve also learned that babies care A LOT about storing their books stylishly in their room.  You see, I have a large quantity of books that I’ve been storing in a basket in the nursery.  I read to my daughter everyday, but I’ve been too lazy to sort through the basket so I’ve been reading the same three books repeatedly.  Babies, specifically newborns, REALLY care about what books are being read to them.  I’m certain that my daughter Esme is tired of reading “Mickey Mouse and the Kitten-Sitters” for the hundredth time so I’ve decided I need a better way to store her books.  My ideas are limited in that there is no space in her nursery for a bookcase.  In fact, there is almost no floor space for anything additional at all.  Here are some of the ideas I’ve gathered as I’m planning out how I want to store them:

Idea #1:  Ikea Picture Ledge: $6.99 per shelf

I like the idea of being able to see many of the books at once.  No more repeating the same book over and over (until she’s old enough to make requests).  I also like that I can install these low to the ground so that one day my little Esme will be able to choose books on her own and take them from the shelf… although this could be a problem eventually too!  This option is also very affordable, and I love that it’s narrow enough to fit in the only empty space in our tiny nursery (behind the door).  This look could also be accomplished with spice racks ($3.99).


Idea #2: Folding Dish Rack ($19.99)

I like that this idea is less permanent (no screws in the wall) and that I can see the spines on all of the books.  That being said, it takes up substantial floor space, and I feel like it has a greater potential to become a disorganized mess.


Idea #3: DIY Book Slings

This idea is similar to the first one in that it is narrow and could easily fit behind the door in our nursery.  It’s also incredibly customizable with different fabrics to match a multitude of decor types.  It does, however, cover the majority of the front of each book.  I’d like the book covers to be viewable so that one day little Esme can find the fronts of her favorite books for us to read together.

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Idea #4: Acrylic Shelves ($9.50)

WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER! This is by far my favorite idea.  I love all things acrylic and lucite so to find an acrylic book ledge is exciting.  These are narrow, allow us to see the full book cover, and modern.  I’m excited to install these, and perhaps most excited to stop reading the same three books over and over.


BONUS IDEA: DIY Book Ledge AND Dress-Up Station ($69.99)

As I was perusing Ikea’s website, I saw this plate shelf with cup hooks underneath it.  It’s a bit more than I want to spend, and it’s larger than the space I have available for the book storage, but HOW AMAZING OF A BOOK RACK/ DRESS-UP STATION WOULD THIS MAKE? I can just picture a multitude of dress-up costumes hanging from the cup hooks with a few books stored in the plate section.

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Alright, I’m off to go read to Esme.  I’m definitely going to attempt to read a different book today because no adult woman should have a Mickey Mouse book fully memorized… unless they really want to.


Decorating for Christmas with Salt Dough

One of the best parts about having a baby before the holidays is getting to create family traditions for the future.  In the past, my husband and I didn’t do much for Christmas.  Our tradition was to travel over the holidays.  This year, we decorated the trees (one for us and one for the baby) while listening to Christmas music, drinking hot chocolate, and eating sugar cookies.  Did the baby even notice or care?  Not really, but it was a blast for us.

One tradition that I wanted to begin was to make salt dough ornaments (recipe at the very bottom of the post) to commemorate our first Christmas as parents.  My family used to make them when I was little, but we added cinnamon to the dough for scent and didn’t paint them.

Salt Dough Ornaments

As a new mom, I wanted to get a keepsake to remember this first Christmas so I decided to imprint our daughter’s hands and feet onto the wet dough before baking.  Apparently, my husband didn’t get the memo that the dough was for ornaments NOT cookies.  I wish I had a picture of his face when I pressed our infant’s feet and hands into the cut dough.  He was quite relieved to discover no one would be eating the dough.


I made a mistake while combining my dough by not adding warm water.  I also should have kneaded my dough a bit better, as mine ended up rising in places in the oven.  We only had 3 cookie cutters (a circle, an oval, and a star) to cut out the dough, but I’d love to purchase a cookie cutter that looks like an ornament for future use.  I used a straw to poke holes for hanging in each ornament before baking them.  Mine were done in about an hour, although the time varies based on how thick your rolled dough is.


We painted each ornament with regular craft paint and sealed them with Mod Podge.  I used ribbon that I already had in my craft box to hang them.  Now, they’re on our daughter’s Christmas tree.  The best part?  These ornaments are kid friendly!  One of my friends came over with her toddler, and the toddler was instantly drawn to the Christmas tree and ornaments.  She enjoyed carrying a couple of these around the house, and we didn’t have to worry about them breaking and her getting hurt.  I also love that I have a memento of our first Christmas with our daughter.  How sweet is that little handprint and footprint?!


We didn’t just make ornaments with the dough.  We also made stocking labels.  My husband and I always fill a stocking for each other (mainly as an excuse to buy and eat candy in a “selfless” manner).  We both have white fur stockings, and it’s hard to tell whose is whose.  I painted a couple tiny stars with our first initials and added them to top of each stocking.  I love how they look hanging against the stocking.

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These ornaments are just so easy to personalize and extremely inexpensive to make.  These would be a great craft for teachers to do with students, especially since the dough doesn’t have to be baked.  You can also just set it out for a few days until it dries out.  I also thought they could make fabulous personalized gift tags to add to packages.  I’m curious if anyone has ever made coasters or a trivet out of the dough, as well.  Below I shared my recipe for the dough, which only makes a small batch.  Happy crafting!


Salt Dough Recipe

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 3/4 cup WARM water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

Mix flour and salt well. Gradually add water, stirring with a large spoon. Finish mixing with hands. Knead until soft and pliable.

Roll out on floured surface about 1/8 inch thick. Cut shapes with cookie cutters. Place on cookie sheets. With a toothpick make a hole in the top of the ornament for threading string. Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) until hard, about 1 hour. Decorate with paint and varnish to preserve.

Gallery Wall on a Budget

I recently wrote a piece about how to create a gallery wall on a budget with thrifted items for DC Goodwill.  I’m clearly still thinking about gallery walls because I wanted to share this inexpensive idea to give you BIG STYLE on a small budget without relying on luck at a thrift store.  I adore the look of grid gallery walls.


They can be filled with simple black and white family images for a chic finish (above) or perhaps you might DIY some pressed plants in the frames (below).

pressed plants

I also love the idea of cutting out images from magazines or books that you find inspiring to fill the frames.


You could even fill them with your children’s art, or you could DIY your own chic art.  The possibilities are really endless!


Finding chic frames at a good price is the difficult part (okay, and hanging them all straight), but that’s where I come in!  You guys, Dollar Tree has some fabulous frames for only $1 each!  I mentioned this before, and I’m really kind of sad that I don’t have a place to use this idea in my house because this is a FABULOUS way to showcase some of my favorite family photos.  Here are some of my favorite Dollar Tree frames that I really hope someone else can use:


This frame is HUGE (11″x14″) so you’d only need a few to make a big statement.  I’d personally order the case of 18 online and have them shipped (since my Dollar Tree rarely has many of the same frames in stock), but I’d hang them in a 4×4 grid on a big wall.  


 This frame comes in silver and gold, as well as in 3.5″x5″ and the 5″x7″ (shown).  I’m a big fan of brushed gold, so of course I love this finish.  I considered buying 2 cases of this frame for only $24 and hanging them in a huge 6×4 grid over a sofa.  I’d personally hang them horizontally, but that’s just my preference.  These would also look great with some plain abstract art in them.  


This textured frame is available in gold or silver, as well.  I haven’t seen this one in person (many Dollar Tree frames look cheap in person because, well, they are cheap), but I love the texture on this frame.  I can picture it in a bedroom to show off family pictures.

My least favorite thing about a gallery wall is hanging the frames, BUT I love that these are all lightweight (plastic) and glass-free (great for homes with kids).  I’ve hung many a gallery wall in the past 9 years (and I still struggle with hanging the frames), so here is my minimal advice to make it easier.

You’ll need:

  1. Picture hangers (I don’t like to use nails, although these frames are light enough that a nail would work) or command strips (for the renters out there)
  2. A measuring tape & pencil (to measure in between frames and mark the wall)
  3. A laser level (BEST. TOOL. EVER. for hanging frames)
  4. *Optional* Newspaper to cut out a tracing of your frames (mark where the hanger is on each newspaper too)

I used to always cut out a newspaper tracing of each frame and tape it to the wall prior to making any holes.  I’d use the laser level and measuring tape to help figure out the placements, and then I’d make my hole through the hung newspaper.  I’ve stopped doing that, not because it doesn’t work, but because I’ve stopped being as much of a perfectionist.

I’m still searching for a spot around my house to put a giant gallery wall of Dollar Tree frames.  Until I find my spot, I hope this is useful for others.

IKEA FULLEN Sink Cabinet Hack

I’m sharing the absolute best DIY deal ever today.  Let me introduce the IKEA FULLEN sink cabinet to you…

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For only $9.99 you can get this bottom cabinet and turn it into a credenza/ fauxdenza (if you will).  I’ve been searching for inexpensive bottom cabinets to create storage for future toys, baby items, etc.  Now, at first glance this little guy doesn’t look all that glamorous, but we can make it better!


  1. The legs are a problem.  They look cheap to me, but they can be painted or replaced!  Amazon even sells replacement legs for Ikea furniture.  I’d personally splurge on some wooden or hairpin legs, but they have some bright, fun ones too!


2. The pulls also cheapen it, but that is an easy fix!  Some DIY leather pulls made from thrifted belts could be cute or inexpensive brass pulls, like the ones I used in my kitchen makeover.

3.  It’s obviously meant to be a sink cabinet so it will need a top.  I’d love to see a DIY waterfall wooden countertop.

4. Similar to how I turned my cheap, laminate kitchen cabinets into shaker cabinets, you could also paint these and add wood give them more character, as seen here.

I purchased 3 of these cabinets this morning, and they were too easy to put together.  I’m 39 weeks pregnant and was able to put two of them together before my husband realized what I was doing and ran in to put together the last one.  I’ll share my finished piece with you in a future post since I’m updating my entire living room, but I had to share this deal immediately.  After researching a variety of options, including a few thrifted pieces, this was by far the best deal for adding storage on a budget.

Planning for a DIY Murphy Bed

I previously wrote about some of my nursery plans, and the real issue is a lack of space. I wanted to fit a daybed (for guests), a dresser, and a mini crib in my tiny space, and it’s just too tiny. A sweet friend that is also expecting recommended that I consider DIYing a Murphy bed, which is what she and her husband are doing. They are much, much handier than me, but I HAVE built furniture in the past… so I’m feeling semi-optimistic about this idea (probably naively so). I start out all of my potential plans with a lot of research, so I looked for a few pictures of what I hoped to accomplish. I’d like a horizontal folding twin Murphy bed with either a bookcase above it or shelving.


In my head, I’m thinking that it could also be a great toddler bed (that wouldn’t even need to be made).  I could fold it down for naps and bedtime and put it back up so there is room on the floor to play.  Ana White has one plan for a twin Murphy bed, but I’m also considering buying a kit (which is a little pricier) and designing my own cabinet for it.

We’re Expecting… a Baby (Nursery Planning)

Back in January, we got some of the happiest news of our lives.  We’re expecting a baby!  In our 8.5 years of marriage, we have had some wonderful adventures, but we’re sure that this journey will be our favorite.  Also, it’s a GIRL! I was certain it was a boy, so I had boy names picked out and a fabulous boy nursery planned in my head (and on my Pinterest board).  I had set aside a toy sailboat that was my husband’s as a boy and had big plans to turn it into something for the nursery.  I could still do all of that for a girl too, but we all know how much I love pink (like my pink dining room).  Is it faux pas to do a pink nursery nowadays? I have 3 extra gallons of a beautiful blush color, and I’d love to use it up!

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The decor is not really the main issue though.  It’s the space.  We live in a two bedroom condo, and the second bedroom is the size of a closet.  It barely fits a twin bed and a dresser.  Now, I need it to do double duty as a nursery and a guest room.  It needs to fit a crib, a twin bed (for guests), and a dresser with a changing pad on top.  Here’s the room that will be the nursery/ guest room.  We sold off the furniture that is in these pictures to make room for NURSERY furniture!

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Since it’s a tiny room, I know I want to paint the majority of it white (Chantilly Lace by Benjamin Moore is my favorite white).  However, I also want it to be a fun space that will grow with our little one.  I decided it would be fun to paint the ceiling a fun, unexpected color.  The room has “chair molding” near the ceiling (Is it even called chair molding when it’s that high?), so I want to extend the color down the ceiling to the top of the “chair molding”.  I think it will give the appearance of a higher ceiling.  Here are some example of others that have done this:



White Bedroom with a Lime Green Ceiling


As far as furniture, we had to buy a crib (CHECK), dresser (CHECK), and a new daybed frame (still looking).  I purchased a crib YEARS ago in preparation of future babies.  As soon as we found out we were expecting, we excitedly pulled it from storage and put it together.  It was too big for the room!!!  It was just a standard sized crib, and we realized we would have to go a different route.  Luckily, I found this mini crib on Craigslist for a steep discount and the sweet (CLEAN) family also gave me a waterproof mattress (and cover) and a few extra sets of organic sheets for it.  Have I ever mentioned that I meet the nicest people on Craigslist?  That sounds bad… I only buy furniture on Craigslist. I also found a Campaign-style dresser and nightstand at a local thrift store (for only $30) and painted them white.  I am still looking for a petite daybed frame that is budget friendly, sturdy enough to survive a future toddler, and that can fit a trundle underneath it.

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My thrift store scores!  They’re white now.

I’ve never had a strong vision or dream of how I wanted to decorate a future nursery.  I know our little one won’t really care what the space looks like for several years, so I want it to be a place in which I enjoy spending time.  I also want it to grow with our little girl and feel sophisticated AND fun.  Easy, right?  I threw together a few mood boards to gather my ideas.  They each have pros and cons, and none of them will be THE end product.  I love thrifting and always seem to find “treasures” that throw off my original ideas.

Idea #1: The Primary (Color) Palace

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I currently own this colorful Persian rug.  It has gold, bright blue, dark blue, red, pale pink, emerald green, and pretty much every other color in it.  It’s FUN!  In this idea, I would paint the ceiling a bold blue and keep the rest of the room rather white (including the crib, crib sheets, dresser, metal daybed, AND daybed bedding).  That white pillow in the bottom corner has tiny gold polka dots on it and would be the daybed bedding.  I would have pops of many colors throughout the room, like the pale pink hamper.  I love how cheerful and bright this room is, and I’m hoping that the amount of white in the room would keep it from being too busy.  I know a lot of people dislike white bedding for kids.  My husband and I have white bedding and white sheets.  We love that it’s easy to bleach, whereas other colors can be trickier for us to remove stains.

Idea #2: The Pretty in Pink Room

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This idea would mean we would sell our Persian rug and purchase this overdyed rug instead.  The rest of the room is identical to the one above, except that the ceiling would be painted a subtle blush tone.  The room would have pops of different tones of pink.  The cat art “might” be a thing, but it also might not.  I’m still deciding what to put in the frames in this room, but who doesn’t love portraits of cats?  This room is much simpler in color scheme, but I worry that it might be a little too “girly.”  I’m a girl, but even I tire of things that feel too sweet.

Idea #3: The Tenacious Turk

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This room is probably a mix of the top two: less color than the Primary (Color) Palace but just as sweet as the Pretty in Pink Room.  The base of the room would stay the same, although the ceiling would get a coat of a happy aqua color.  I would exchange our current Persian rug out for this Turkish rug that has pops of green, mauve, white, aqua, navy, and rust.  The room would have hints of pink and aqua.

Decisions, Decisions.  Do you have any favorites or additional ideas?